Olazabal stands firm at Augusta

Second-round leader maintains advantage with back-nine play

Norman alone 1 shot back

Pate tied for third with 7 straight birdies

April 11, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- All around him yesterday, those at or near the lead in the 63rd Masters were backing up on the back nine of Augusta National, their names and scores moving down a few notches on the leader board.

First, Lee Janzen took the lead away from Jose Maria Olazabal, only to cough it up with a couple of poor decisions that led to bogeys.

Then Davis Love charged in front, before he put his second shot on the par-5 15th in the water and double-bogeyed the hole.

After stumbling on the front nine, Olazabal kept avoiding the disasters that had befallen others, particularly on Amen Corner and again on the 18th hole. No bad choices like Janzen. No shots in the water like Love.

And no lost balls like Greg Norman.

"It was a tough day out there today," Olazabal said later. "I was happy to hang on."

When sun faded behind the pines and the crowd began to depart early last night, Olazabal was right back where he began the day -- in the lead. And Norman was right where he has been so many times here -- on the brink of winning.

A 1-over par 73 had left Olazabal, the 1994 champion, at 7-under par 209, one shot ahead of Norman. Love is two shots behind, as is Steve Pate, whose 7-under 65 included a tournament-record seven straight birdies.

In all, 15 players are within five shots of the lead, 23 are within six shots. Included in that group is a certain fellow at 2-under and another at 1-under. Their names are Tiger Woods and David Duval.

After starting the day eight shots behind, 1997 champion Tiger Woods is but five back after a 2-under 70. Duval, looking for his first major championship and third straight victory, also shot 70.

"Right now, the way it looks, I'm right there," said Woods. "I think tomorrow, in order for me to have a chance of winning, I have to get off to a quick start. Anyone within five shots going into tomorrow has a chance to win."

Said Duval: "I want the course to be hard because if you're going to get a good round going you can make up more ground."

On a sunny, hot and windless day where conditions seemed more like the U.S. Open than the Masters, few except Pate could get much momentum going. Birdies were followed by bogeys -- or double-bogeys.

Love, who finished one shot behind Ben Crenshaw here in 1995, twice reached 7-under, first with a birdie on the par-4 11th and, after a bogey on the par-3 12th, another birdie on the par-5 13th. Then came the double bogey.

"It was an interesting day," said Love, the 1997 PGA champion. "I rode the roller coaster of emotions all day long, but in the end, I gave myself a chance. That's all you can ask."

So did Norman. Tied for the lead at 6-under through 11 holes, Norman sent his tee shot on the par-3 12th deep into the azalea bushes behind the green. After an exhaustive search, Norman wound up going back to the tee and hitting again.

Using the same 8-iron from nearly the same spot on the tee, Norman's ball landed safely on the green. With a 22-foot putt and staring at a seemingly certain double-bogey, Norman made the putt. But his second shot on the par-5 13th hole wound up in a divot, and Norman made bogey.

"That's where I had to regather my composure," said Norman, 44, who has finished second or tied for second here three times and tied for third once. "That seemed to get me more than the 12th hole."

What got to Norman the most was the reaction of the crowd, which gave him a standing ovation when he went back to the 12th tee and another when he made the putt for bogey. The roars will certainly grow today if he stays in the hunt.

"That's the most I ever felt on a golf course," said Norman, who is looking for his first major since the 1993 British Open and his third major overall. "I've felt some good stuff at the British Open and Australia, but that's the most I've felt in the United States."

Asked how it felt to make the birdie putt on the 18th green to put him into the final pairing today, Norman said: "I really wasn't thinking about it. I wanted the birdie to get the lead. I thought Jose was 6-under."

At 7-under heading to the 18th tee, Olazabal heard the roars as Norman's birdie putt fell. Trying to fade a 3-wood into the fairway, Olazabal hooked it instead way left. "What an ugly shot," he muttered.

Olazabal made a terrific recovery. With his ball a little over 200 yards from the pin, Olazabal lasered a 3-iron between two trees and onto the green. He nearly made a 12-footer for birdie.

"I was glad to make a 4 after that tee shot," he said.

Yesterday's results set up what could be another wild finish today, capped off by an interesting pairing of Olazabal and Norman. A casual friendship became close as a result of the respective injuries they sustained.

Each wrote the other with sympathy and support.

Olazabal has regained his health, if not yet his form, after sitting out 18 months with a career-threatening foot injury in 1996. The same is true for Norman, who sat most of last year after undergoing shoulder surgery.

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